One year after Florida won all 18 of its SEC regular season games and the SEC tournament title, No. 1 Kentucky moved one step closer to accomplishing the same feat with a win over the Gators.
The Wildcats weren’t at their best offensively, shooting 37.5 percent from the field, but they limited Florida to 33.3 shooting in the second half as they went on to win 64-49 in Nashville. Florida, which trailed by four at the break and by five with 7:40 remaining, went more than five minutes without a point as Kentucky clamped down defensively and established a comfortable margin down the stretch.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Aaron Harrison scored 13 points apiece as Kentucky’s lone double-digit scorers, with Town adding a game-high 12 rebounds. Towns and Harrison combined to score 16 points, and point guards Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis combined for four assists and one turnover in the second half.
The Wildcats didn’t shoot much better from the field in the second half than they did in the first, making 39.1 percent of their attempts, but they did get to the foul line on a far more frequent basis. Kentucky shot 13-for-15 from the foul line in the second half, outscoring Florida by ten points in that department.
For Florida, which has struggled with inconsistency all season, to have a shot at beating Kentucky they needed their best players to be productive and that didn’t happen. Dorian Finney-Smith (four points) made two of his ten shots from the field, and Michael Frazier (two points on 0-for-4 shooting) struggled as well. What helped Florida hang around was the play of Eli Carter and Jon Horford, who finished with a combined 26 points on 12-for-20 shooting, but not getting solid afternoons from Finney-Smith and Frazier proved costly especially during the decisive scoring drought.
From an NCAA tournament seeding standpoint Kentucky won’t gain anything this weekend. They’ll still be the top overall seed, and geographically speaking their path to the Final Four looks to be one with stops in Louisville and Cleveland before getting to Indianapolis (provided they win, of course).
But there’s still the need to work towards getting better each day, and Friday’s win will give Kentucky plenty to look at when it comes to pinpointing where they need to improve with an eye towards a national title run.